APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Lawrence County; the Hon.
CHARLES E. JONES, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE GEORGE J. MORAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
The defendant, Board of Education of Lawrenceville, appeals from an order of the circuit court of Lawrence County wherein judgment was entered in behalf of the eight plaintiffs in amounts ranging from $98.00 to $724.00 per plaintiff.
On March 22, 1967 the Board of Education of Lawrenceville Township High School District No. 71, Lawrenceville, Illinois, approved a salary schedule for the 1967-1968 school year. On April 17, 1967, a notice was sent to each teacher which indicated the manner in which that individual's salary was determined. This was computed by listing the teacher's degree, plus semester hours beyond that degree, and the years experience in teaching. These notices included a provision that the contracts were subject to the School Laws of the State of Illinois. The eight plaintiffs were all teachers within the District and each received a notice specifying his salary and the method of computation.
On May 19, 1967, the Illinois Legislature amended Section 24-8, Chapter 122, Illinois Revised Statutes to provide for certain increases in the minimum salary which school boards may pay teachers. The pertinent provisions of the section state:
"Effective July 1, 1967, and based upon experience in a school district, teachers who serve on a full-time basis shall have their salaries increased to at least the following amounts above the starting salary for a teacher in such district in the same classification; * * *."
On May 26, 1967, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Education issued a memorandum written by its legal advisor which read in part:
"To all County Superintendents and School Administrators:
The Governor approved House Bill No. 797 on May 19, 1967, and we enclose herewith a copy thereof. Numerous questions have already arisen concerning the proper interpretation of some of the provisions of the Bill. It has therefore been determined that a general memorandum on this subject is advisable.
There can be no doubt that the first paragraph of Section 24-8 fixes the absolute minimums which must be paid beginning July 1, 1967, to full-time teachers.
The second paragraph of the Bill provides for salary increases effective July 1, 1967, based upon experience in a school district, with a provision for increases in the amounts therein set forth `above the starting salary for a teacher in such district in the same classification.' It is the opinion of this office that the reference to such district applies to a school district in which the teacher is presently employed on a full-time basis. In order to make up the requirement of 5 years experience, 8 years experience, or 13 years experience as provided in the bill, such experience may only be counted for the district in which the teacher is employed and which will be required to grant the increases. In other words, a teacher who has taught in other districts may not have the experience in those districts counted as qualifying such teacher for an increase in salary * * *."
Thereafter the Board of Education adopted a motion which provided that experience outside the district would not be included in the calculation. A revised salary schedule was prepared to conform with the decision. Under the revised schedule none of the plaintiffs received a lesser salary than that contained in the original notice of April 17, 1967.
The plaintiffs filed suit alleging that the revised salary schedule did not give them full credit for the years experience set forth in the notice of April 17. For example, the notice of April 17, 1967, sent to the plaintiff, Kenneth G. Hardway, stated:
"Your salary for the 1967-68 school year is determined from the salary schedule as follows:
M.S. Degree plus 0 semester hours and 18 years experience (including the 1967-68 school year) ...